WASHINGTON, DC – Today the House Armed Services Committee voted down a Republican amendment that attempted to use the sacrifices of our veterans and their families to score political points.
The following is a joint statement from Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO), Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt (D-SC), Military Personnel Subcommittee Chairwoman Susan Davis (D-CA) and Readiness Subcommittee Chairman Solomon Ortiz (D-TX):
“Our committee has never accepted amendments
that require sequential referral to another committee,
without first obtaining a letter of consent from that
committee. While we all support finding a resolution to the
underlying issue, we cannot allow our bill to be subjected to
a point of order on the floor.
“The authors of this amendment know these rules and choose to ignore them, hoping no one would notice their lack of sincerity at truly solving this problem. This amendment requires viable offsets from mandatory spending accounts in other committees, and no attempt has been made by the authors to identify these offsets or obtain the approval of the committees of jurisdiction.
“In our committee, we don’t play games. We don’t accept legislation that we can’t pay for ourselves, and we don’t try and gain political points by raising the hopes of the men and women who sacrificed so much for our country.”
*** All provisions are subject to change pending final passage of H.R.2647 ***
Fact Sheet on the Use of Mandatory Spending
Prepared by the HASC Staff
Since taking control of Congress, Democrats have made great strides in providing for our retirees and their families. Since 2007, the first year Democrats were in control of Congress, we have greatly advanced the ball for both SBP/DIC and concurrent receipt.
Please see the attached fact sheet for additional legislation passed by the Democratic Congress.
• In 2007, we authorized a monthly payment of $50 to surviving spouses who are denied the full amount of their SBP benefit because of concurrent receipt of DIC. The amount will be increased to $100 by 2014. This has since been updated in the recently-passed Tobacco Bill to increase that amount to $150/month in 2014, and increasing it to $310/month in 2017.
• In 2007, we also authorized disabled retirees, who are considered 100% disabled by virtue of being unemployable, to receive full concurrent receipt of military retired pay and disability compensation effective back to January 1, 2005.
When Republicans controlled the House, the Senate and the White House, they chose not to resolve these important issues. During that time, there were budget surpluses that could have been used to benefit our military retirees and their families, but instead, the Republicans chose tax cuts for the wealthy. They included reserve funds in their budgets, but chose not to use that flexibility to help our veterans.
Republicans have asked for programs totaling an estimated $36 billion over the next ten years. They have asked the Budget Committee Chairman to use his authority to tap into the “Reserve Funds” in the budget to pay for these mandatory spending programs.
The Republicans are demanding use of an authority that does not exist. The reserve funds they refer to are “deficit-neutral”, meaning they can only be activated when mandatory spending cuts are identified by one committee and made available for use by that committee or another committee, through this reserve fund.
The Chairman of the Budget Committee cannot simply invent resources. In the event that offsets are identified for use through the reserve fund, he can use his limited authority to direct those resources towards increasing a committee’s budget allocation. Until that occurs, the resources do not exist, and the Chairman cannot make a reserve fund adjustment.
A proposed across-the-board cut to all mandatory spending programs is simply smoke and mirrors. It is not a viable solution because it proposes indiscriminately cutting programs that are funded through formulaic calculations. In order to decrease the amount spent, you must change the basic formula used to determine costs, and Republicans have no intention of undertaking this effort.
The Republican proposal is fiscally irresponsible. They have not identified viable offsets that can be used to pay for these programs. They have offered $36 billion worth of spending without offering a realistic means of paying for it.
Democrats favor fiscally responsible solutions. We will continue to make improvement in a fiscally responsible manner that does not jeopardize the military retirement and health care benefits our TRICARE for Life beneficiaries have earned.
Supporting our veterans takes more than lip service. For 12 years, the Republicans were in control of Congress and never attempted to fully resolve this problem, and it is irresponsible of them to raise it now without proposing a viable solution. They are using our veterans to gain political points by creating unrealistic expectations among our wounded warriors, survivors and reservists who are bravely serving our country.
By putting forward unworkable and overly simplistic proposals, Republicans are creating unrealistic expectations. They know the committee cannot pay the $36 billion required to fix these programs without reducing military retirement benefits or health care benefits for our Medicare-eligible military retirees.
Republicans are hypocritical for criticizing deficits while pushing for a new $36 billion initiative. To knowingly offer this program without viable offsets, while criticizing Democrats for increasing federal deficits, is the very definition of hypocrisy.